Atrial fibrillation (AF) is a progressive arrhythmia with underlying mechanisms that are not fully elucidated, partially due to lack of reliable and affordable animal models. Here, we introduce a system for long-term assessment of AF susceptibility (substrate) in ambulatory rats implanted with miniature electrodes on the atrium. Rats were subjected to excessive aldosterone (Aldo) or solvent only (Sham). An additional group was exposed to myocardial infarction (MI). AF substrate was tested two- and four-weeks post implantation and was also compared with implanted rats early post-implantation (Base). Aldo and MI increased the AF substrate and atrial fibrosis. In the MI group only, AF duration was correlated with the level of atrial fibrosis and was inversely correlated with systolic function. Unexpectedly, Shams also developed progressive AF substrate relative to Base individuals. Further studies indicated that serum inflammatory markers (IL-6, TNF-alpha) were not elevated in the shams. In addition, we excluded anxiety\depression due to social-isolation as an AF promoting factor. Finally, enhanced biocompatibility of the atrial electrode did not inhibit the gradual development of AF substrate over a testing period of up to 8 weeks. Overall, we successfully validated the first system for long-term AF substrate testing in ambulatory rats.
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